2016 Road Season
USA Cycling National Championships
With the summer long underway, this blog post has grown increasingly overdue. However, we still want to take the time to look back at our season and the 2016 Collegiate National Championships.
Luckily, Nationals was once again very close by, just two hours north in Marshall and Burnsville, North Carolina. On the day before racing began, the team made the drive up to pick up numbers and settle in to the house. This year's Nationals team was slightly pared down from the complete roster and consted of Cooper Willsey, Nolan McQueen, and Nate Morse for the Men, and for the Women, Julia Fresne and Danielle Clark, who was racing with a broken wrist.
Racing began early on Friday morning with the Womens' road race. Danielle and Julia set out on the very hilly and demanding course, which immediately ascends a one mile switchback climb. On the second climb of the lap Danielle and Katherine Shields increased the pace and quickly cut the lead group down to about twelve riders. With the pace staying high, the group's lead grew to several minutes and would stay away for the remainder of the race. The finish came down to a full group sprint of nine riders, with Jennifer Caicedo of King University taking the win and Danielle finishing an impressive seventh.
The Men's race was next. The racing set off from the gun with an early break going after the neutral. As attacks and attempts to bridge flew on each climb, Cooper, Nate, and Nolan did their best to survive the rounds. As the pack became thinner and thinner, Nate was the only Furman rider remaining going into the bell lap in a field of about twenty five riders. The repeated and punchy climbs eventually got the best of him, however, as he cramped on the last major climb of the race. After a quick stretch, Nate set out to time trial the remaining miles of the race, and would finish twenty second.
Saturday was the crit in Burnsville. While it was called a crit, this course proved to be one of the most demanding and selective courses a cyclist could possibly encounter. This .9 mile course featured a forty-five mile per hour descent and roughly 120feet of climbing per lap. Finishers of the men's race would have climbed roughly 4,000 vertical feet over the course of the race!
While Danielle chose to sit out the crit with her broken wrist, Julia took the line in the first race of the day. As the race blew apart, riders began to get pulled with each lap. Julia raced a very tough race on this elevation packed course, and survived roughly 2/3rds of the race before being pulled. This was however still a top twenty finish!
The men's race took off later that afternoon. With the field nervous and anxious about how this race would play out, the pace was high from the gun. Cooper and Nate took advantage of the fast descent and technical bottom corner to maintain a high position in the group. Luckily, the race was steady up the climb for the first part of the race, allowing all of our riders to stay in the bunch. Unfortunately, a crash a few laps in took Nolan out of contention. After about thirty minutes, the pack was beginning to thin out and a critical breakaway went up the road. A heroic bridge to the break by ETSU's Nolan Tankersley caused the pack to chase incredibly hard, and resultantly a second group of about ten formed ahead of what was left of the pack. Both Nate and Cooper were in this select group, however, Nate was quickly in the red. As Coop dug deep and stuck with this group, Nate found himself in no-man's-land for several laps between the two groups. Eventually caught by what was left of the pack, Nate's group got the bell before being pulled about fifty minutes in, where he would pick up second in the uphill sprint to finish seventeenth. Cooper continued to hang tough as the race continued to blow up, and would finish ninth. Only fifteen riders completed the entire race, and only two riders were not lapped by the winner, Nolan Tankersley. This was a spectacle of a criterium!
Sunday morning was an early day as Nate, Cooper, and Nolan set out for the time trial. Tired from a hard weekend of racing and going in a man short, the odds were not largely in the team's favor. However, the guys put in a tremendous effort and finished eighth, only twenty seconds off the podium. This was a good way to end the weekend, as it gave us some good hope for next year when we will have a full TTT team.
While these results were not on par with last year's sweep, our small team still pulled out some great finishes and had a fantastic time together. Next year is rapidly approaching and we are looking forward to another full season of 'cross and road racing!
Thanks for reading!
-The Furman Cycling Team
UGA Race Weekend
This past weekend, prior to Easter break, Furman Cycling traveled to Union City, Georgia, a small town just outside of Atlanta, for the race hosted by the University of Georgia-Athens. Thankfully, it was a relatively short drive compared to the first two race weekends in Florida and Alabama. As the team had seen success the previous weekend at Georgia Tech, goals were set high for this race, and the team delivered
Racing got underway early this weekend with the Team Time Trial at 8am on Saturday. A last minute change of the TT venue made for a tight scheduled morning, but once our team of Brendan Rhim, Cooper Willsey, Brian Suto, and Nate Morse started out on the incredibly short 4.2 mile course, all was well. With a course this short, the effort had to be full gas right from the start. The team did just that, and clocked in an impressive sub-nine minute time. While the results were mixed up due to a competitor's Men's and Women's TTT teams being mistaken for each other at the finish, there is confirmation that our Men's A team won the time trial.
Immediately following the TTT, the team made the short drive to downtown Union City for the criteriums. Up first was Hayden Cox in the Men's C race. Hayden is a runner by nature, but enjoys every opportunity he can get to come race with Furman Cycling. Hayden finished close to the front of the bunch in the sprint on a very tight and technical sprint. Jake Thompson had a solid race as well in the Men's B field.
Union-City is a major locomotive passageway, with many different tracks surrounding the neighborhood where the race took place. With very long trains coming through regularly, often stopping and blocking major roads, crossing the tracks showed to be a bit precarious before the Women's A Criterium on Saturday. Unfortunately, our A Women got stuck at a crossing by a stopped train and were unable to make it to the start in time for the race. Danielle Clark and Julia Frense did make up for it, however, by going 1-2 in the P1,2,3 race later that afternoon, with Danielle taking her first ever elite category win.
The Men's A crit was very exciting with Brendan Rhim showing his strength by lapping the field. With two other riders lapping with him, getting Brendan to the finish in first would have to be a team effort. Cooper Willsey took off with a small group in the last quarter of the race, and would win the sprint to take 4th. With two laps to go, Brian Suto took to the front of the pack and ramped the pace up very high to deter any riders from attacking. On the last lap, Nate Morse took the front and gave a full speed leadout. Brendan overtook the field before the last corner, and with a strong sprint was able to take a commanding win. He would go on to win in the exact same fashion in the Pro 1,2,3, race that evening. This was a fantastic day overall with the Men's A team winning both available events.
The following morning saw the road races. This weekend had the longest conference road race distances so far this year, with 56 miles for the Women's A, and 73 miles for the Men's A. All of the races started within 20 minutes of each other and took place on a rolling lolly-pop style course.
First to finish was Hayden, taking a great top 10 finish on a course that was far hillier than his typical specialty suits. Jake had his best collegiate finish to date, taking 5th place in the Men's B race out of a bunch sprint.
In the Women's A race, a breakaway escaped after about twenty miles containing two Milligan riders, a Lees McRae rider, and our very own Julia Fresne. With Milligan and Furman having no incentive to chase the break, the gap would grow and survive to the finish. Julia took 3rd place from a sprint and added another podium to Furman's growing result list for this season.
The Men's A race was a very interesting dynamic. A break containing one rider from each major team separated thirteen miles in. Furman had Cooper in the break, and we liked his odds on this course. The pack knew that the race was up the road as the separation was formed, so by some miracle of harmony typically unseen in cycling, the entire pack operated in a successful rolling pace-line for the next fifty-five miles. As Cooper battled up in the break, the field ate away at the remaining miles, knowing they would only be fighting for menial places. The breakaway would enter Union City all together, and the race would come down to bunch sprint. Cooper jumped the pack into the final corner and took his first win of the 2016 season. This was a phenomenal day for him, and we are excited for what he will do next. Back in the pack, the race began with about five miles left, and the group raced hard until the finish line. Brendan would take the bunch sprint with Brian and Nate close behind.
This was the team's most successful race weekend yet with a sweep of the Men's A races, a podium in the Women's A Road race, and consistent top 10 finishes from our B and C riders. With two races left and the National Championships, we are feeling both excited and confident for what the rest of this season may hold for us.
Thanks for reading,
-The Furman Cycling Team
Georgia Tech Race Weekend
On the weekend of March 11-13, the Furman Cycling Team made the trip to Lawrenceville, Georgia for the race weekend hosted by Georgia Tech. This was the third race weekend of the 2016 season, and after successful weekends in Florida and Alabama, the team had its sights set high.
The road races started off early Saturday morning with club racer Hayden Cox taking a solid eighth place in the Men's C race on a hilly and very windy course. Hayden is primarily a cross country runner, so we are lucky when he is free to compete with the cycling team.
Next up was Danielle in the Women's A race. With our other Women's A rider, Julia Fresne, away for the spring break, Danielle was all alone to fend off the herd of Milligan girls. Danielle made several attempts to break away from the field with her power and climbing abilities. Being severely outnumbered by Milligan, her efforts for a breakaway were unsuccessful. The six lap race would come down to a sprint on the 800meter uphill drag, and Danielle would take third place.
In the Men’s A race, Furman’s team of Cooper Willsey, Brendan Rhim, Brian Suto, and Nate Morse covered early moves and kept things under control. With temperatures rising, this was going to be a serious race of attrition. On the third lap of eight, a lone rider was able to sneak away with a large advantage on the field. As teams looked at one another to chase this rider, Brendan was able to power away from the pack for the remainder of the race to claim second place. After brendan’s departure from the field, a lazy lazy pack made for an interesting race. Various random attacks allowed some small groups to get up the road late in the race, including Cooper, who was able to sprint up the 800 meter finshing climb for a solid 4th place. Sweeping back in the pack was Nate, who took the bunch sprint of what was left of the field for 13th place.
Our TTT team of Cooper Willsey, Brendan Rhim, Brian Suto, and Nate Morse laid down an incredible time trial, winning by roughly thirty seconds on the seven mile course. Things are looking good for the TTT with nationals approaching and a title to defend.
Sunday morning saw the criterium in downtown Tucker, Georgia. This was a fast and twisty course with high winds. While the initial forecast predicted some serious rain, it ended up being a gorgeous day.
Hayden took the start first in the Men's C race. Hayden remained in good position as the field was quickly splintered by some incredibly strong University of Georgia riders. While two riders from University of Georgia were able to stay away for much of the race to claim first and second place, the pack was aggressively racing for the remaining podium spots. Hayden kept a great spot through the bell lap and finished near the front of the bunch sprint.
In the Women's A race, Danielle was faced with another tall order of being vastly outnumbered. Racing smart and keeping anyone from getting up the road alone, the race would eventually come down to a bunch sprint, with Danielle taking fifth place and finding herself on the podium for the fourth race in a row out of four starts this season.
The men’s A criterium began quickly with Brian Suto escaping with one other rider from Lindsey Wilson in a breakaway. As they gained time, the field tried harder and harder to chase. The gap grew and shrank, and eventually, two riders, Cooper being one of them, bridged up to the break. Nolan Tankersley bridged across, and he and Cooper rode away together and quickly created a gap. Milligan and others tried hard to chase, but Cooper and Nolan were able to lap the field. Unfortunately, Furman attempted but failed to supply Cooper with a lead-out for the sprint. However, all riders were still placed in or close to the top ten, with Cooper on the podium in second.
Next up is the UGA race weekend on March 18-20. Thanks for reading and check back next week for a new report!
-The Furman Cycling Team